Theodore Frelinghuysen
7th President of Rutgers University
In office
Preceded byAbraham Bruyn Hasbrouck
Succeeded byWilliam Campbell
2nd Chancellor of New York University
In office
Preceded byJames M. Mathews
Succeeded byIsaac Ferris
2nd Mayor of Newark
In office
November 10, 1837 – November 10, 1838
Preceded byWilliam Halsey
Succeeded byJames Miller
United States Senator
from New Jersey
In office
March 4, 1829 – March 3, 1835
Preceded byMahlon Dickerson
Succeeded byGarret D. Wall
12th Attorney General of New Jersey
In office
February 6, 1817 – March 4, 1829
GovernorIsaac Halstead Williamson
Preceded byAaron Woodruff
Succeeded bySamuel L. Southard
Personal details
Born(1787-03-28)March 28, 1787
Franklin Township, New Jersey, U.S.
DiedApril 12, 1862(1862-04-12) (aged 75)
New Brunswick, New Jersey, U.S.
Political partyFederalist (Before 1829)
National Republican (1829–1834)
Whig (1834–1854)
Charlotte Mercer
(m. 1809, died)
Harriet Pumpelly
(m. 1857⁠–⁠1862)
RelativesFrelinghuysen family
Frederick Frelinghuysen (Father)
EducationPrinceton University (BA)

Theodore Frelinghuysen (March 28, 1787 – April 12, 1862) was an American politician who represented New Jersey in the United States Senate. He was the Whig vice presidential nominee in the election of 1844, running on a ticket with Henry Clay.

Born in Somerset County, New Jersey, Frelinghuysen established a legal practice in Newark, New Jersey, after graduating from the College of New Jersey. He was the son of Senator Frederick Frelinghuysen and the adoptive father of Secretary of State Frederick Theodore Frelinghuysen. He served as the New Jersey Attorney General from 1817 to 1829 and as a United States Senator from 1829 to 1835. In the Senate, Frelinghuysen strongly opposed President Andrew Jackson's policy of Indian removal. After leaving the Senate, he served as the Mayor of Newark from 1837 to 1838.

Frelinghuysen was selected as Clay's running mate at the 1844 Whig National Convention. In the 1844 election, the Whig ticket was narrowly defeated by the Democratic ticket of James K. Polk and George M. Dallas. Frelinghuysen served as president of New York University from 1839 to 1850, and as president of Rutgers College from 1850 to 1862. Upon its incorporation in 1848, Frelinghuysen Township, New Jersey, was named after him.[1]

Early life

He was born in 1787 in Franklin Township, Somerset County, New Jersey, to Frederick Frelinghuysen and Gertrude Schenck.[2] His siblings include: Catharine Frelinghuysen; John Frelinghuysen (1776–1833) the General who married Louisa Mercer and after her death married Elizabeth Mercereau Van Vechten; Maria Frelinghuysen (1778–?); and Frederick Frelinghuysen (1788–1820) the lawyer who married Jane Dumont. His great-grandfather Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen was a minister and theologian of the Dutch Reformed Church, influential in the founding of Queen's College, now Rutgers University, and one of four key leaders of the First Great Awakening in Colonial America. Theodore was the uncle of Frederick T. Frelinghuysen and great-great-grandfather of Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. Rodney Frelinghuysen, who represented New Jersey's 11th congressional district, is a descendant.

Frelinghuysen married Charlotte Mercer in 1809, but she died in the same year. They had no children together, but when Theodore's brother, Frederick Frelinghuysen (1788–1820) died, Theodore adopted his son, Frederick Theodore Frelinghuysen (1817–1885), who would later become Secretary of State. Theodore Frelinghuysen remarried in 1857 to Harriet Pumpelly.

He graduated from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) in 1804 and studied law under his brother John Frelinghuysen, and later, Richard Stockton. He was admitted to the bar as an attorney in 1808 and as a counselor in 1811, and set up a law practice in Newark during this time period. In the War of 1812, he was a captain of a company of volunteers.[3]

Political career

Theodore Frelinghuysen campaign poster

He became Attorney General of New Jersey in 1817, turned down an appointment to the New Jersey Supreme Court and became a United States Senator in 1829, serving in that capacity until 1835.

As a Senator, he led the opposition to Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal Act of 1830.[4] His six-hour speech against the Removal Act was delivered over the course of three days, and warned of the supposed dire consequences of the policy:

Let us beware how, by oppressive encroachments upon the sacred privileges of our Indian neighbors, we minister to the agonies of future remorse.

Jackson supporters chided Frelinghuysen for mixing his evangelical Christianity with politics, and the Removal Act was passed.1

He was Mayor of Newark, New Jersey, from 1837 until 1838.

At the 1844 Whig National Convention, competing with Millard Fillmore, John Davis and John Sergeant, he was selected as the Whig vice-presidential candidate. He took the lead on the first ballot and never lost it, eventually being chosen by acclamation. The Whig presidential candidate, Henry Clay, was not present at the convention and expressed surprise upon hearing the news. Frelinghuysen's rectitude might have been intended to correct for Clay's reputation for moral laxity, but his opposition to Indian removal may have put off those southern voters who had suffered from their raids (William Lloyd Garrison praised his speech opposing removal in the poem "To the Honorable Theodore Freylinghusen, on reading his eloquent speech in defence of Indian Rights"[5]). Frelinghuysen was also unpopular with Catholics because groups of which he was a member, such as the Protestant American Bible Society, promulgated the idea that Catholics should convert to Protestantism. Clay and Frelinghuysen lost the 1844 election.

Institutional positions

Frelinghuysen was the second president of New York University between 1839 and 1850 and seventh president of Rutgers College between 1850 and 1862. He was president of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (1841 – c. 1857), American Bible Society (1846–1862), and American Tract Society (1842–1846), as well as vice president of the American Sunday School Union (1826–1861), and American Colonization Society (ACS). In his public advocacy for colonization, or the deportation of free people of color from the United States, Frelinguysen described black people as “licentious, ignorant, and irritated” and therefore not suited for full citizenship within their present country.[6] His moniker was the "Christian Statesman."


He died in New Brunswick, New Jersey, on April 12, 1862, and he was buried there at the First Reformed Church Cemetery.[7]



  1. ^ Brief History of Frelinghuysen Township[permanent dead link], Frelinghuysen Township, New Jersey. Accessed August 15, 2007.
  2. ^ Atkinson, Joseph. The History of Newark, New Jersey: Being a Narrative of Its Rise and Progress, from the Settlement in May, 1666, by Emigrants from Connecticut to the Present Time, Including a Sketch of the Press of Newark, from 1791 to 1878, W.B. Guild, 1878. Accessed February 2, 2015. "THEODORE FRELINGHUYSEN, though not 'native here and to the manner born,' was to the extent of the best and busiest years of his life, essentially a Newarker. He was born in Franklin Township, Somerset County, N.J., March 28th, 1787, of an ancestry distinguished for its piety and learning."
  3. ^ Appletons' annual cyclopaedia and register of important events of the year: 1862. New York: D. Appleton & Company. 1863. p. 481.
  4. ^ Jon Meacham. American Lion. p. 142.
  5. ^ "The American Commonplace Book of Poetry" (1832), Rev. George B. Cheever, ed., pg. 201
  6. ^ White, Deborah Gray. "The Findings". Scarlet and Black Project. Rutgers University. Retrieved 9 October 2020.
  7. ^ "Death of Hon. Theodore Frelinghuysen". The New York Times. April 13, 1862. Retrieved July 21, 2007. Hon. Theodore Frelinghuysen died at 2 o'clock to-day, at his residence, in New-Brunswick, New-Jersey.
Legal offices Preceded byAaron Woodruff Attorney General of New Jersey 1817–1829 Succeeded bySamuel L. Southard U.S. Senate Preceded byMahlon Dickerson U.S. Senator (Class 2) from New Jersey 1829–1835 Served alongside: Mahlon Dickerson, Samuel L. Southard Succeeded byGarret D. Wall Political offices Preceded byJohn Tyler Mayor of Newark 1837–1838 Succeeded byJames Miller Academic offices Preceded byJames M. Mathews Chancellor of New York University 1839–1850 Succeeded byIsaac Ferris Preceded byAbraham Bruyn Hasbrouck President of Rutgers University 1850–1862 Succeeded byWilliam Campbell Party political offices Preceded byJohn Tyler Whig nominee for Vice President of the United States 1844 Succeeded byMillard Fillmore

Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress